Health Watch -- Sun Safety

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

After the doldrums of winter, having the spring sun on your face feels wonderful. But is your face protected?

It's the time of year when we can get outdoors and enjoy the spring sunshine, but doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas remind you not to forget the sunscreen. The sun's radiation causes cellular mutations that can lead to skin cancer. Sun exposure also causes the skin to age more rapidly. You'll protect your health and your looks by applying sunscreen properly before you go outdoors.

Dr. Sarah Weitzul, a UT Southwestern dermatologist, offers this refresher course on sunscreen use:

  • Apply sunscreen about half an hour before you go outside so it can be fully absorbed into the skin for full protection. Apply it liberally. If you put on too thin a coat, it won't protect you as well.
  • If you've been in the water, if you've been sweating, if your skin has been in contact with wet clothes or if you've been in the sun for more than three or four hours, re-apply your sunscreen.
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB radiation. Look for ingredients like Parsol 1789, zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
  • Use sunscreen every day, not just when you're going to the pool or beach. You get most of your sun exposure going about your daily routine. If you're going to be in the sun for less than about 15 minutes, a daily sunscreen with SPF 15 will do. If you're going to have more extensive sun exposure, use SPF 30 and be sure to reapply.


April 2004